Friday: We spent the entire day driving from Athens, GA to Kissimmee, FL. It was supposed to be a 10 hour drive and ended up taking more like 13 hours.
However, there were some hi-lights on our trip. Here are a few:
We saw HUGE anthills in Georgia! I’ve never seen anthills this big, so naturally I had to stop and get a picture.
We also saw cotton fields. I have never seen a cotton plant, so it was pretty exciting to stop and show the kids a cotton plant and to have them touch the cotton. Call it education.
Another big hi-light was that the first of our butterflies came out of its chrysalis. We didn’t actually see it hatch, but did watch it pump blood into its wings and begin the process of moving about. Of course, we stopped for that excitement too!
We finally arrived in Kissimmee and were greeted with yummy food and a comfortable house. The long trip was worth it!
Saturday: We awoke Saturday morning to find that all but two of our butterflies were flying around in their cage. How exciting! After a wonderful breakfast of chocolate chip and/or blueberry pancakes, we headed out with my sister, Beth to Universal Studios. We didn’t pay to get into the theme park, but rather just walked around the free area and looked in the shops. It was 94 degrees out and we were sweltering! Thankfully, we found some fountains and the kids shed their shoes and romped around until completely soaked.
After Universal Studios, we headed to Downtown Disney. It’s a free shopping area that has lots of fun stores – a Lego store and the largest Disney store on the planet! Boy was that fun! We didn’t have a lot of time because we wanted to get back and trick or treat. So, after a little shopping, we headed out for pizza with Beth and Steve and then went trick or treating with the kids.
Trick or treating was somewhat disappointing. We’re used to a town where just about everyone participates. Although we chose a neighborhood with lots of kids, few people had their lights on. Besides that, the mosquitoes were out. The kids did get some good candy though, and I suppose I’m actually quite happy to have about a fourth of our normal loot! Especially since we had to fit it into our already stuffed van. The odd thing about our trick or treating experience was that we had few people actually wait for us to ring the doorbell. Most people were outside waiting for the kids to come. At first, I assumed this was because the weather was warm. However, after asking Beth, I found out that because of the high crime rate, few people are willing to open their door to strangers. It’s too risky that someone may look in and then come back later to visit on less friendly terms (i.e. robbery). Once done with the trick or treating, we let the kids take a quick swim in Beth and Steve’s pool. The kids had a great time and slept wonderfully after a thoroughly exhausting day!
Sunday: Sunday was a terrific day! First thing, we set the butterflies free. It was pretty exciting to watch them all fly out of their cage and head to freedom in the warm Florida weather. I’m glad the kids were able to experience the fun of that!
We decided to take the day and head to Sea World. We knew this would be our only chance to get there. Thankfully, Beth came with us and was able to get us a military discount on our tickets. We went right away to the Shamu show. All I can say is WOW!!! The trainers are amazing and it was incredible to see them work with these huge animals. We purposely sat way down in the front (3rd row) so that we could get wet. And sure enough, we got DRENCHED!!! Shamu came out and created these huge waves that soaked us completely. Everyone loved it!
We also saw some other neat things. We got to pet the sting rays – which is a rather odd feeling; Abby, Beth and I paid to feed and pet the dolphins (the high point of Abby’s day!); we ate lunch surrounded by sharks; and we watched a funny pirate show with seals. The kids had a blast and so did mom and dad. It was another busy, fun day!
Once back at the house, we asked Beth if we could use her big bathtub to bathe all four kids at once. She agreed. Once all four kids were in, she substituted some shower body wash for bubble bath. We really weren’t expecting the results! The suds took over the tub and overflowed onto the floor! The kids had a great time playing in the suds, and even after draining all the water, we still had a tub filled to the brim with suds. Needless to say, not much washing happened in the tub, so each child had to take a quick shower after their bath. But it created some great memories.
Monday: This was our biggest day of the trip. We got up early and headed out to … DISNEY WORLD!!! The kids were so beyond excited! It’s impossible to recount all the great experiences here, but I’ll try to hit a few. We were at the Magic Kingdom and had planned to spend the entire day there. Right away we saw Pluto and decided to get in line for his autograph. (A friend had given us the tip to bring autograph books for each kid. That’s something I highly recommend doing!). So, we got a family picture and autographs with Pluto. In fact, throughout the day we gathered autographs from Pluto, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck, Cinderella, Belle, and Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). Of course, we have pictures of the kids with all those characters as well. We saw many others, but decided it wasn’t worth our time to continue standing in line.
We rode on several rides. The kids particularly loved the Buzz Lightyear ride, the Goofy ride, the Pooh Bear ride and the Pirates ride. My favorite thing was Mickey’s Philharmagic – a 3D show complete with smells, water, sights and sounds! It was so fun for me to see Gabe jumping out of his chair trying to grab the objects flying at him! We were especially thankful for a set of recommendations from a friend for what rides and events are worth your time. We followed her advice and were not disappointed in the least!
When evening came and sun set, the kids seemed to grow even more excited. There is something about the lights on all the buildings and rides creating a magical environment. We stayed to watch the light parade and the fireworks. Here are some really cool pictures from that.
I never expected that my little three year old would be able to walk for three days at various theme parks! He was such a trooper! The poor little guy was so very exhausted by the end of it all that as soon as we left the Disney parking lot, he conked out in the car. What a good boy!
Tuesday: Sadly, we had to leave our times in Florida behind. We left the state exhausted, but with many wonderful memories to cherish. We especially enjoyed our time visiting with Beth, Steve and Shawn and the opportunity to take part in their lives for a few days. We left before 9 am on Tuesday morning and got on the road heading to Maryville, TN. We were off to see Josh’s grandma and were looking forward to a slower pace for a couple of days. This was our longest day of driving. And it was compounded by our children’s tiny bladders! We were reminded that when a 3 year old says, “I have to go BAD”, reminding him that the nearest exit is only 3 miles away does no good. “BAD” means “Stop the car NOW”!! And that’s what we did! I think we stopped about 5 times in the first hour of our trip. Needless to say, our trip lasted much longer than the 10+ hours we had scheduled and ended up taking more like 13 ½. Ugh. The kids were troopers, but we’re glad to have the day done.
Wednesday: On Wednesday we took the day easy. We had a few loads of laundry to do and were happy to just hang out at Grandma’s house and relax a bit.
We did go for a nice autumn walk and took a long, curvy drive through the mountains. The views were incredible! Gabriel slept through most of it, but the rest of us enjoyed the majesty of God’s creation.
Grandma cooked us some terrific meals and we all worked to get to bed on time. At this point in the trip, a restful day was just what we all needed!